I have a quartet of books to review, so before my stack gets any higher, here goes:

Fun and Funky Crochet

I like the look and concept of this book better than the execution… Fun & Funky Crochet by Sophie Britten has written a book aimed at a gen-x and younger audiance. The book has a great introductory section with beginner how-to guides. The pattern section starts in an original way with small motifs, edgings and inserts. There are some collars, cuffs and patches which are great ideas, but I’m not fond of the designs chosen for the book. The pocket patches, for instance, don’t even fit the pockets they’re covering which gives them a haphazard look.

There’s a helpful project index with thumbnails of each pattern in the book. The patterns I would be most likely to make are a great ruffle scarf, some cute wave stripe legwarmers and a beautiful mohair skirt. The skirt is a marvelous design, almost worth getting the book for–however, the author doesn’t say which brand of mohair was used, so some trial and error might be involved to dulicate the pattern.

Odd Ball Knitting

Truth be told, I was a tiny bit dissapointed to see this book appear because I’ve been imagining a similarly-themed crochet book for sometime, and once again, the knitters got it first. However, this book is delicious! The photography in Odd Ball Knitting : Creative Ideas for Leftover Yarn by Barbara Albright, is wonderful, and the book is full of ideas that will appeal to both knitters and “hillbilly knitters.”

The introductory section has great information about manging your stash (she even includes a pattern for a lavender sachet to keep your yarn smelling nice!) Ms. Albright encourages readers to be creative and subsitute different yarns for what she’s used in the patterns, because, afterall, that’s what the book is about–using up small bits of leftover yarn.

I find the small projects very appealing–a navajo inspired amulet pouch and a beaded party purse look like nice beginner projects. The “San Francisco Headbands” are fun and would make good winter ear-warmers. The book also has hats and scarves and socks, pillows and toys and throws–not original ideas, but Ms. Albright’s sense of design is modern and chic, while at the same time seeming comfortable and accessible.

Designing Knitwear, by Deborah Newton

Recently, I was involved in an e-mail discussion with other crochet designers about what books they like to use for reference when creating patterns. One of the most popular responses was Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton. After reading the book, I can see why.

Originally published in 1992, the photos and designs in the book are a bit dated, but the information is timeless. I enjoyed Ms. Newton’s description of her design process. She loves to swatch and doesn’t see it as something keeping her from designing. She keeps meticulous records of her swatches and design ideas, and shares her method with the reader. You learn how to accurately sketch a pattern, how to create design schematics

This is not a pattern book, but she gives patterns for some of the designs in the book. She also has great ideas for what to do with all those swatches you make when coming up with designs.

The book includes sections on fit and shaping, and lots of instruction on the various details of knitting that are used to create beautiful garments (pleats and darts, interesting collars and sleeves). There’s a great deal of information on color and types of yarn.

Patternmaking for Fashion Design

The other book that came highly recommended is actually a textbook for fashion design students. Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong (4th ed.) is a complete course in garment construction. The most recent edition even includes a DVD. Every type of garment you can think of is detailed, from cap-sleeved tops to ruffled skirts.

There’s great information on fit and color, and unlike Designing Knitwear, there’s detailed sizing information for men, women and children.

Neither of the design books will appeal to beginning crocheters or knitters, but if you’ve decided to start creating your own designs, they could become much-used references.

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Crochet Library: Designing, crocheting, de-stashing